Monday, January 17, 2011
A nuclear plant in Israel identical to one in Iran supposedly tested a devastating cyber attack
More evidence suggests a joint U.S.-Israeli project caused the devastating Stuxnet cyberworm to attack nuclear facilities in Iran in the summer of 2009. Testing at an Israeli nuclear plant identical to one in Iran proposes the U.S. and Israel are looking for less violent ways to take down Iran’s nuclear program.
We’re decoding the worm with perspectives from ABC News, The New York Times, The Guardian, and Venture Beat.
A reporter for ABC News explains how the worm does its job.
“The first step was getting a thumb drive like this, virtually indistinguishable from so many others in common use, into Iran and onto an Iranian government computer. The virus then spreads from computer to computer, but it doesn’t do any damage until it reaches the specific computer network it is targeting. Then it pounces, speeding and slowing the spinning centrifuges so they destroy themselves.”
The worm kept itself hidden and made it appear everything was working fine to operators monitoring the station. The 2009 attack destroyed about a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, but the New York Times suggests it still has some kinks.
“Some parts of Iran’s operations ground to a halt, while others survived, according to the reports of international nuclear inspectors. Nor is it clear the attacks are over: Some experts who have examined the code believe it contains the seeds for yet more versions and assaults.”
Israel has threatened military attacks against Iran to stop its nuclear program. The Guardian says another successful launch of Stuxnet could make Israel’s nuclear weapons program unnecessary.
“An official told the Guardian that the military option is now less likely, citing not only the cyberattack, but also the synchronised assassination last year of two Iranian nuclear scientists, attributed to Israel.”
But a writer for Venture Beat is less optimistic, saying the worm could be turned against those who created it.
“While it may have done damage to Iran’s nuclear program, Stuxnet is also like a genie out of the bottle. Now that it exists, other cybercriminals will seek to take advantage of its techniques in attacking other targets.”
Iran’s state-run Press TV reports Iranian officials have rejected the worm's success and said experts detected the worm early enough to prevent any damage.